How can mindfulness help in the workplace?
Our work occupies most of the day and a significant percentage of our lives. The only thing we do more than working is sleeping. In a 2022 survey from Gallup, 60% of the global workforce said they felt emotionally detached at work. This feeling of detachment is often due to experiencing high levels of stress.Bringing Mindfulness into the workplace can help.
When you find work that you love. The kind of work that doesn’t feel like a job. You can consider yourself very fortunate. However, regardless of whether you love your work or not, the workplace can be a source of intense stress and anxiety. In that same survey, 44% of the global workforce said they experience stress in the workplace. Stress caused by heavy workload, working long hours or being subjected to a culture that creates a difficult working environment.
Learning mindfulness techniques brings many benefits into all aspects of your life. In this article, I’m going to focus on the workplace and share with you, simple practices you can do in your working day to support your wellbeing.
What is mindfulness?
If I could use one word to describe what mindfulness is, it would be ‘awareness’. Mindfulness is about being here in the now. The present moment.
When you are practising mindfulness. You are consciously aware. You’re not worrying about the past or the future. You are present to your thoughts, feelings, sensations in the body, and aware of your environment. Without any judgement or attachment to what you are experiencing.
There are numerous techniques available to develop ‘awareness.’ Both Ram and I became accustomed to this concept through the classical teachings of Yoga. Where you are encouraged to practice yoga asana (postures), Pranayama (breathwork) and Yogic meditation with awareness. In doing so, you learn to be more present.
You build an internal coping mechanism that enables you to deal with the challenges that come your way. And importantly you begin to understand yourself more.
The benefits of Mindfulness in the workplace.
Those who have studied and practised mindfulness techniques including awareness-based meditation say they become aware of how their mind works. The thing is when you are more self-aware, you start to see how your mental impressions impact your perception and therefore your decisions in all aspects of your life, including the workplace.
Improved learning and control.
Research that was conducted on the brains of meditators documented neuron growth in the area of the brain that is associated with learning, memory, and emotional control.
Taking this insight into a workplace environment it would suggest that, if you incorporate meditation into your daily life, your ability to learn new skills, retain information would improve. You would be more mindful in what is happening in the workplace and not react emotionally and have more control.
Increased focus and concentration
It can be incredibly stressful trying to juggle different projects at the same time and not really focusing fully on any one task. In doing so, the quality of your work can suffer. When you practise mindfulness, you learn the art of coming back to the present moment. You learn to be more focused.
In my daily work life, I have benefited from sectioning off my day to focus on one task or project at a time. To allocate time for each task to my calendar.
Neuroscience shows that the daily practice of coming back to the present moment can boost the area of your brain that is associated with attention regulation.
Using the breath to bring you into the present moment.
When you begin to consciously observe your breath, the attention is on this one single point the breath. This is the present moment. It is a practice that helps to develop concentration. Your mind is more focused.
Also, your breath becomes a function of the cerebral cortex (the evolved area of the brain) rather than the primitive brain. The parasympathetic nervous system is activated, so you feel calmer and relaxed.
Give this a try:
- Take a moment to notice how your breath is spontaneously flowing.
- Are you breathing slowly or is your breath fast?
- Is your breath shallow or are you breathing deeply?
- Notice when your attention drifts away, and bring your attention back to your breath, to the present moment.
This is a wonderful practice to do for 5-10 minutes every day.
Mindfulness for reducing workplace stress.
This is a big one. I shared a statistic a little earlier about the level of stress in the workplace. Let me repeat this again, 44% of the global workforce said they experienced stress yesterday. Sadly, in many cases, (mine included), stress can lead to burn out. But also living permanently in the stress response causes long-term damage to your health.
There are numerous studies that demonstrate how meditation acts as a very useful tool for managing stress. In fact, it has been scientifically proven that in as little as 8 weeks, regular meditation will not only reduce stress, but it also changes your brain.
In doing so, you re-program your brain (called neuroplasticity), so that you are able to build your resilience to cope better in stressful situations. You feel calmer, more relaxed, clearer. Whether that’s in the workplace, at home, in school. If it’s around relationships, finances, family issues.
Access a free 10-minute meditation audio that you can access using the link below. It will calm your mind and help you to create a healthier headspace.
CLICK HERE TO ACCESS A FREE 10 MINUTE AUDIO MEDITATION PRACTICE.
What to do when you suddenly feel the wave of stress, anxiety or overwhelm at work? Try these two mindfulness practices
This is a useful method for bringing mindfulness into everyday life.
- Stop. Take a pause no matter what you are doing
- Take a breath – Bringing awareness to your breath will bring you into the present moment.
- Observe – Acknowledge what just happened. Good or bad.
- Proceed – If you feel comfortable to do so, continue with what you was doing.
This breathing practice sends a message to your brain to activate your parasympathetic nervous system. This is the response that takes your body out of the stress response (fight or flight) and brings you to a calmer more relaxed state.
- If you need, remove yourself from the stressful situation you are in. This way you are taking control and not allow the feeling to increase. If you are able, step outside and breathe in the fresh air.
- Say to yourself that this feeling will pass. It’s important to recognise that this initial emotion is temporary.
- Bring your attention to your breath at the nostrils. It will naturally begin too slow down and bring you into the present moment. Say to yourself, I am breathing in, I am breathing out.
- Start to make your exhalation longer.
- Breathe in for a count of two and exhaling for a count of four.
- Continue for a few minutes until you return to a calm state.
The magic of Yoga Nidra.
Finally, I would like to introduce you to the practice of Yoga Nidra. For many years I have had a recording of Yoga Nidra on my smart phone. It’s my go to practice when my energy is low.
Practise regularly and Yoga Nidra will give you a reset from the intensity of your day. It will become your best friend.
In my corporate life, at lunchtimes I would leave the office, lay in the sun, or in my car and listen to a short 20 minute Yoga Nidra recording. Above anything else Yoga Nidra is a practice that I continuously turn to, day after day. It is a deep relaxation you won’t find anywhere else!
Would you like to have your own practice of yoga Nidra? Click on this link to access a FREE download.
Listen closely, this is friendly reminder from someone who has learnt the hard way.
I am so grateful that I discovered and began to practise the form of traditional yoga and meditation that I did. I honestly don’t know where it would’ve ended for me if I hadn’t developed this level of self awareness. If i hadn’t noticed how my workload and the environment, I was in was impacting on my health and wellbeing. I made the decision to do something different. I chose to walk away from this work environment.
If you are in a place of work where you are experiencing workplace stress on a consistent basis. For example, you’re having trouble sleeping at night because you are worrying about your job or your workload. Perhaps, in your work you continuously experience anxiety, or panic, or the overwhelming feeling like you’re drowning.
This is a sign that you need to listen to your body. The poor sleep, anxiety, and stress, your body is telling you something. You need to make a change
Invest and prioritise your mental wellbeing.
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